Stories to Tell
Conservation Areas are full of adventure and are just waiting to be explored! There are so many great stories to tell about visits to these natural gems, and we have shared some of our experiences and the experiences of others with you on this page. We encourage you to browse through the stories below and then Step Into Nature with family and friends to create your own ‘story to tell’!
The Magnificent Moraine
Explore the south slopes of the Oak Ridges Moraine from the boardwalks of Enniskillen Conservation Area, or immerse yourself in its beauty from the extensive trails at Long Sault Conservation Area.
Although I wasn’t planning to stop, I found myself turning off of Regional Road 57 when I saw the sign for Enniskillen Conservation Area, a Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) property. My friend and I had been for a quick hike at another conservation area that morning and I think she groaned inwardly when she saw my turn signal.
“Another one?” she asked with a note of exasperation in her voice. But what could I say? I can never resist checking out a new hiking spot, especially when we were practically there already.
The bright Echinacea flowers and serene little pond made me immediately glad I had stopped to see what Enniskillen had to offer. My mood of self-congratulation was buoyed up once again as we walked across a bridge over the quick flowing Bowmanville Creek and into a field of wildflowers.
“Wow,” breathed my friend, forgetting her grumblings, “look at how tall these trees are!”
We’d come to a clearing and craned our necks upwards to find the tops of the trees that were cooling the bright sunlight overhead.
We followed the wooden boardwalk though the thriving, vibrantly green forest, pausing to listen to birdcalls. I’m not a fishing enthusiast myself so I didn’t have tackle or a fishing license, but had I been a fisherman, any of the five times that the path crossed the creek would have been a nice spot to take a break and cast a line for some brook trout or brown trout.
The 3 kilometers of trails at Enniskillen are perfect for a leisurely hike. There are also picnic tables, and had we not already eaten lunch, I would’ve loved to spend a whole relaxing afternoon hiking and picnicking.
We climbed back into the car, but a little further up RR 57 another conservation area sign caught my eye. Flicking on the turn signal once again, I glanced at my friend, blurting out “last one, I promise!” before she could voice the protest that I was anticipating. But she took no notice of me; she’d already picked up my copy of “Your Guide to Conservation Areas in Ontario” and was intently reading the description of Long Sault Conservation Area as we pulled into the parking lot.
“Hey, this is part of the Oak Ridges Moraine,” she exclaimed.
I was glad she pointed that out, since even if you live along the Moraine, it’s not every day that you stop and think about the importance of the 10 000 to 12 000 year old piece of geological history on which we were standing.
We stopped to read the information panel for a quick refresher about the history of the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Moraine was formed by a retreating glacier, which left behind a giant ridge of sediment. This ridge stretches 170 kilometers from the Niagara Escarpment in the west to the Trent River watershed in the east, making it Canada’s largest moraine. The layers of sand and gravel that make up the Moraine act as a giant rain barrel, collecting rain water and snow melt. This water is filtered by the Moraine before it is released to the 65 rivers and streams that lead towards Lake Ontario to the south and Lakes Simcoe and Scugog to the north. A total of over half a million people rely on the moraine for drinking water stores.
Consulting the trail map, it was hard to decide where to go next. Long Sault is the largest conservation area owned and managed by CLOCA, with over 18 kilometers of trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer, and cross-country skiing in the winter. These trails wind through diverse landscapes, and if you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of animals such as beavers, cottontails, red fox or deer. Over 900 plant species grow on the Oak Ridges Moraine, and you may recognize some unique varieties like wild strawberries and raspberries, black-eyed susans, trilliums or asters. Keep your ears open as well, since the Moraine is one of the last refuges of forest birds in all of Southern Ontario.
The trails at Long Sault are rated in difficulty as beginner, intermediate or advanced, with a sign at the head of each trail indicating the length of the trail and direction of travel for hikers and mountain bikers. Some of these trails also connect to the Oak Ridges Trail, which stretches over 200 kilometers.
While we didn’t feel quite up to tackling the advanced Barred Owl Trail, we took a quick spin down the Cottontail Rabbit Trail, and I’d love to come back to explore the others.
Some things, like the Moraine, are worth saving. Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated groups and individuals the Moraine is protected, and so it should also be enjoyed. So why not visit a CLOCA conservation area and explore the magnificent Oak Ridges Moraine for yourself?
There are many Conservation Areas in Ontario that offer great hiking opportunities. To find other Conservation Areas that include hiking trails, go to www.ontarioconservationareas.ca.
Melissa Rodgers is a student at Carleton University. Her passions include history, cooking, reading, and the great outdoors.
Bumblebees buzz around the bright Echinacea flowers
The trail at Enniskillen crosses the Bowmanville Creek 5 times
A calm little pond is a great place to relax and watch for wildlife
Enniskillen offers a combination of trails and wooden boardwalks for hikers
Trees tower far overhead in the forest at Enniskillen